A jury ordered a Silver Lake businesswoman to pay $3.47 million to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and $1.57 million to Katy Perry for interfering in the sale of a former Los Feliz convent to the singer.
The Los Angeles Superior Court panel deliberated for an entire day before reaching its verdict against Dana Hollister for slander of title, interference with contractual relations and interference with prospective economic advantage.
The jury Friday also found that Hollister acted with malice, oppression or fraud, triggering a second phase of trial to begin Dec. 1 to determine if the archdiocese, the California Institute of the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary and Perry should be awarded punitive damages. The delay in holding the second phase is due to vacation plans by some jurors.
In closing arguments Thursday, an attorney for the archdiocese told jurors that Perry’s 2015 bid to buy the property and live there with her mother was thwarted by Hollister, costing the archdiocese $3.47 million in fees and costs. Archdiocese lawyer Kirk Dillman told the panel Thursday that Hollister needed to pay a price for recording a grant deed knowing she needed the permission of the archbishop and ultimately the Vatican.
“Ms. Hollister needs to be hit where it hurts, in the pocketbook,” Dillman said.
Eric Rowen, the attorney for Perry and her company, The Bird Nest LLC, had recommended that Hollister be ordered to pay $2.64 million to compensate the singer for thousands of hours of work by her attorneys.
“She slandered everybody’s title on purpose … to stop the transaction,” Rowen said of Hollister.
Hollister’s attorney, Michael Geibelson, countered that his client thought she had an enforceable contract to buy the convent and did not intend to cause financial harm to the archdiocese or Perry.
“I don’t think Dana Hollister did anything wrong as to either of these parties,” Geibelson said.
He said a careful examination of the attorneys’ billings shows they charged for many things that had nothing to do with the essence of the case. He said lawyers for the other side even charged for talking to the media.
“They just started billing and kept going,” Geibelson said.
Hollister made her purchase through Sisters Rita Callanan and Catherine Rose Holzman, who maintained they had the authority to sell the Waverly Drive property to the businesswoman. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephanie Bowick later canceled the deal. Both nuns were in court for the final arguments.
Holzman and Callanan are among five members of the institute and are the only members who oppose the sale of their former home to the 33-year-old “Roar” singer.
Dillman, who also represents the institute, said Hollister could have ended things by filling out a quit-claim deed. Instead, she and those around her decided to press the issue further, according to Dillman.
“They said, ‘Bring it on, we’re going to fight this out through final judgment,”‘ Dillman said.
The convent has been vacant since 2011 because it became too costly for the retired sisters to maintain and no longer accommodated their physical needs, and the proceeds from any sale of the property would go to the IHM Institute, according to archdiocese.
After the archdiocese filed the first legal volley against Hollister in June 2015, Perry became part of the litigation when the sisters intervened in the case and named her as a defendant. The singer then filed her own cross-complaint.
The sale to Perry was for $14.5 million, consisting of $10 million in cash and an agreement to provide an alternative property for a house of prayer worth $4.5 million, according to the archdiocese. In contrast, Hollister paid $44,000 and agreed to a contingent promissory note to pay $9.9 million in three years, Dillman said.
Dillman has said Hollister likely never would have gotten the permits for a boutique hotel she proposed for the property and that she could have walked away from the deal if it no longer suited her.
–City News Service